Extremely hot take: Red Bull will not win the F1 championship this year’, tweeted former Top Gear presenter and Fifth Gear incumbent Rory Reid. ‘This is the start of their downfall.’
A joke, obviously, and Max Verstappen’s streak had to come to an end sometime. The team enjoys a 308-point advantage with seven races to go. But Red Bull’s lack of pace in Singapore was a total surprise.
Struggling for heat in their tyres and bottoming out under braking, they were knocked out in Q2, with Verstappen 11th and Sergio Perez 13th. It was the first time both Red Bulls had missed out on Q3 since Sochi in 2018.
In the race, the safety car’s appearance on lap 21, triggered by an off from Williams rookie Logan Sargeant, threw a spanner into the Milton Keynes squad’s strategy, from which they could only improve to P5 for the championship leader and P8 for Perez at the chequered flag.
A haul of 14 points is not a disaster but nonetheless the team have not had a worse result since the season opener in Bahrain last year, when both cars failed to finish. Sunday was the first time this season Red Bull didn’t win.
Ferrari now have the satisfaction of having ruined Red Bull’s perfect season in 2023 as well as McLaren’s perfect season in 1988.
Carlos Sainz hailed Ferrari’s ‘perfect’ execution to win from pole.
‘I always felt under control,’ he said. ‘Like I had the headspace and the pace in hand to do whatever I wanted to.’ It was their first victory in 14 months.
One assumes order will be restored at Suzuka this week, with Verstappen taking his 12th win of the year. If not, we may conclude the FIA’s crackdown on flex-wings and floors has robbed Red Bulls of their power.
Two new rule clarifications came into force last weekend, outlawing flexibility or movement of the front wing and also exploiting allowances of flex of the floor, which had originally been introduced to help combat ‘porpoising’.
For now, Red Bull say the tightened regulations haven’t affected them one iota. ‘I know you would love to blame the TD (Technical Directive), but unfortunately we can’t even blame that,’ Christian Horner told the media at Marina Bay. ‘It’s not changed a single component on our car.’
As for what did go wrong in Singapore, the team principal put it down to a wonky set-up.
‘We were just not in the right operating window of the car, particularly over a single lap. And when you’re there, nothing works. It exposed some weaknesses in the car but that gives us very useful insight and certain things we can hopefully address in [next year’s] RB20.’
As for Max, he was furious with his lack of pace in qualifying but, with no expectation of a win on Sunday, said he was okay about his winning streak coming to an end.
‘I knew this day would come, so for me it’s absolutely fine,’ said the Dutchman.
Krack-ing way to keep the boss happy
Aston Martin only contested the race with one car, after Lance Stroll’s huge accident. Stroll is ninth in the standings, while Fernando Alonso is fourth.
The Spaniard has contributed 170 points to the team, Stroll just 47. Second in the constructors earlier in the year, Aston have slipped to fourth.
Stroll’s 2024 seat has been confirmed as a result, many have suggested, of his father owning the team. Rather than getting the hump, as most team chiefs might, Mike Krack says the off showed Stroll’s determination.
No one seems more committed than Krack when it comes to keeping the team’s owner happy.